Moses came down from the mountains having met with God. He was transformed by this encounter - his face shone so brightly that he had to cover it with a veil when speaking to the Israelites so that they would not be afraid. What a glorious encounter that must have been to produce such effects! Moses must have been taken to the very throne room of heaven, surrounded by angles singing 'Holy, Holy, Holy to the Lord God Almighty', felt rapture and bliss...
Yet when we read of this encounter in chapter 34 it is far from the kind of glorious encounter I imagine it should be. It happens in the clouds and mist. Moses is standing on the rock as he was told to do, squinting into the mist trying to make out his surroundings. He probably looses track of time as he stands there in the early morning chill. Maybe there is a small pile of stones behind him that he accidentally dislodges that causes him to spin around to catch a glimpse of God only to stare into another direction of cloud.
Then suddenly he finds himself in the narrow cleft of the rock. Squashed on every side by cold black stone. The water trickling down the inside of the cleft finds its way down his neck, a jagged rock is poking him in his side but there is no room to move into a more comfortable position. Mist and darkness enshroud his senses. If he had not lost track of time before, he certainly did now. In the darkness of the cleft every second lasted forever. He strained his senses to become aware of God's glory passing by, but God had covered the rock with his hand.
God was passing by on the outside.
Out there Moses could hear the Lord proclaiming His name: The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation".
How long would it take for God in his entire glory to pass by?
When Moses found himself free of the rock, his experiences of God is like the smell of a lingering cologne or the settling of dust after a herd of sheep has passed by and he falls to the ground in worship.
This is the glorious encounter with God that transformed Moses, one that might have been a wet, dark and confusing encounter for Moses...yet in the midst of cloud Moses gets to know God in a way that lets him go before the Lord unveiled. "Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out."
When in a place of darkness, feeling stuck and uncomfortable, surrounded by cloud and mist and loosing the capacity of one's senses, it not only feels like a light veil covering my face, but like a heavy bag pulled over my head, and there is no awareness of glory in that experience.
It might be that what is happening is an unveiling of my heart, a stripping back of the scaffolding that holds my conception of God together and all my pretty answers of how things should and shouldn't be. The God I encounter in the cloud and mist has no boundaries I can grab hold of to shape into a nice comfortable place. Rather the encounter forces me to trust a God I cannot clearly make out, in a situation I cannot control. I am stripped of my layers, unveiled before God, encountering God's glory in a manner I cannot fathom.